February 8, 2017

LINSEY | In Capital District, Cornell’s Power Play Capitalizes

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I played youth floor hockey growing up and like most other youth sports, the game consisted of a giant scrum of kids around the puck, whacking their stick at any sight of it. My dad was our coach, and one day, he suggested I stand in front of the opposing net and wait for the puck to come to me. I was skeptical — what could compare to the glory of being in the flock of kids around the puck? However, once I gave it a chance, I started scoring goals when the puck bounced out of the pile and right to me in front of the net. It was more fun to stand by the net and score goals than to be in the crowd of kids around the puck.

In recent weeks, Cornell men’s hockey has seemingly taken a similar approach to the power play. The man-advantage can be a pivotal part of hockey because a pivotal part of hockey because a solid power play will punish the opposition for taking silly penalties. Top power play teams score on 20 percent or more of these extra-man opportunities. The power play is even more important for a low-scoring team like Cornell, as it provides some of the team’s best scoring chances.

TThese past few games have been fantastic for the power play. Anthony Angello and Jake Weidner both scored power play goals against Union, and Weidner, Patrick McCarron and Yanni Kaldis all scored on the power play against RPI. Trevor Yates added another power play tally against Colgate on Tuesday.

But on the whole, it has been a tough season for the Red power play — the past goals only raised the team’s power play success rate for the season to 18.3 percent. One or two power play goals at key moments earlier in the season could have improved Cornell’s already-impressive record.

How did Cornell succeed in the power play this past weekend? I contend that it is due to the type of mentality that my dad suggested in youth hockey — every element of its power play has been set up to get players by the net and score goals.

The Red power play unit often has four forwards and one defensemen instead of the typical three forwards and two blueliners. As a result of honed offensive instincts, forwards tend to be more opportunistic with the puck, more aggressive around the net and thereby score more goals. The offensive prowess was showcased by the fact that four of the five power play goals from this weekend were from close-range — Angello’s goal was the only long-distance power play goal this weekend.

Although it sounds simple, Cornell has had more chances to shoot because of this increased focus on getting to the net. After Matt Buckles’ power play goal during Friday’s game, the Engineers’ T.V. announcer said, “All five Big Red players converged on the net,” recognizing this increased focus on getting into goal-scoring positions.

This strategy has helped the Red generate goals, so why hasn’t the team done this all season? By subbing in an extra attacker for a defenseman, Cornell is more vulnerable to giving up a shorthanded goal. When any team has an extra forward on the ice for the power play, it does so with the cost of some defense. Mike Vecchione of Union, the nation’s leading scorer, provided a timely reminder of this when he tied Friday’s game at one with a shorthanded goal.

These are drawbacks, but these are the chances you have to take to capitalize on the power play. This proved to be the case for the Red this past weekend, and the power play will continue to be important for the rest of the season. The Red faced Colgate on Tuesday and scored a power play goal on their only opportunity of the game. The team will face Yale and Brown at home over the weekend, where the Cornell power play just might shine again.